Cap Crippling Contracts

2009 NHL Entry Draft, Rounds 2-7

I’m sure everyone remembers former Canucks and current Leafs General Manager Brian Burke. Face it, it’s hard not to. Burke’s never met a TV camera he didn’t love. He has a bombastic personality and has a penchant for making the biggest trades while on the biggest stage.

As a hockey fan, you have to work hard to avoid seeing or hearing about Brian Burke. On the other side of the coin, there’s Mike Gillis. To say that he has a monotonous speaking style may be giving him credit for having half a tone too much. When he’s interviewed on TV it’s hard to figure out who’s more uncomfortable, Gillis, the interviewer or the viewing public. There’s been a decided lack of big name trades or free agent signings, save for Mats Sundin, but I’m still not entirely convinced that the Sundin/Canucks Era ever actually took place.

I hope this isn’t coming off as critical though because Gillis has done something most other NHL GMs haven’t; he has avoided signing a player to a cap crippling contract. In this salary cap era this is no small feat, no minor accomplishment. If he makes a mistake with a contract, the mistakes are ones that can be weathered easily. Mats Sundin had a huge cap hit, but it was only for a matter of weeks. Pavol Demitra’s contract is over this summer, and while he is overpaid, not to a painful extent.

So if he misses, he misses short term. Now let’s look at his hits, a laundry list that most Canuck fans should be completely familiar with:Luongo,Daniel, Henrik, Burrows and Samuelsson. All these guys have production that exceeds the impact of their cap hit. With this track record, there should be now doubt that the Kesler deal will get done and be beneficial to both player and team.

Now this way of doing business may be a tad "dry" leaving Canucks fans a bit jealous when the trade deadline day or opening day of  free agency rolls around, but when signing these long term contracts you’ve got to be sure. Before this season was anyone out west sure about Jay Bouwmeester?  I was more confident trying to spell his name than I was assessing whether or not he was an elite level defenseman.

Now that we’ve had a chance to see him, is he truly on that Nicklas Lidstrom/Zdeno Charra level? Is he one of the best five defenseman in the NHL? Well, he’s getting paid like he is and he will be for years to come.

Think of the headaches other GMs have just trying to clean up their mistakes. Trading star players for 50 cents on the dollar because the cap hit does not match production. Losing prospects or draft picks in an effort to get a bad deal off the books. What kind of goaltending could the Blackhawks get if they weren’t saddled with Brian Campbell’s $7.14 million cap hit? Could the Flames have done more if they didn’t have so much money invested in an aging Jarome Iginla? And what the hell were the Canadiens doing taking that horrific Scott Gomez deal of the Rangers hands?

So thank you Mike Gillis, you’re no Brian Burke, but looking at the contracts that the Leafs are locked into and their position in the standings, I think we can live with it.